Want to learn the basics of tracking Ohio wildlife?
Make it an adventure the next time you’re hiking in the Hocking Hills
You don’t have to be an expert to start tracking wild animals. All it takes is a some basic knowledge and a little detective work to start discovering exciting Ohio wildlife. Animals are all different and have distinctive clues they leave behind—you just need to know where to start looking.
Parks like Hocking Hills are the perfect environment to start tracking because, just like humans, animals prefer the easiest route—even when that means taking man-made trails. The next time you’re hiking in Hocking Hills, study these tips to help you identify the critters you come across.
The best tracking environments are “transition zones,” or the spot where two habitats intersect, like forests and fields, or fields and streams. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources explains that these areas often support a variety of wildlife species because animals generally travel between food, water and shelter.
Keep in mind that animal tracks are easiest to spot in mud, soft garden soil, sand and snow.
Tips on spotting tracks
The Farmer’s Almanac offers plenty of tips for spotting tracks in the wild. Remember this information the next time you’re hiking in Hocking Hills:
- Study the ground closely. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Note the size of the track, number of toes, track pattern and whether it shows claw marks.
- Bring a pad of paper and pencil to make a sketch of the tracks. Don’t count on your memory!
- Track early in the morning or late in the day when shadows make prints easier to see.
- Watch for animal droppings called scat. If the scat is dry all the way through, the tracks may have been left a while ago. Scat can also tell you if you're tracking a vegetarian or a meat eater.
- If you lose the trail, search in a circle around the track until you pick up the trail again.
- Start to think like the animals you’re searching for. For example, small animals like cottontail rabbits stick close to fence lines or streams to get back to their burrow safely.
- Two-toed - white-tailed deer
- Four-toed - rabbits, coyotes, foxes, bobcats
- Four-toed on the front and five-toed on the hind feet - mice, squirrels
- Five-toed - opossums, raccoons, otters, beavers, skunks
Learn how to track from the expert
Want to take your tracking to the next level? Join the Naturalist at the Campground Amphitheater on Aug. 16 at 2 p.m. to explore the signs our local wildlife leave behind with our Skins, Skulls and Tracks program. No reservations are necessary, call 740-385-6841 with any questions.
Photo Credit (Trail): Micky** via Compfight cc
Photo Credit (Fox): Shoot In the Hills 2014